Preparing Teams For A New Normal

As governments begin to loosen restrictions on social distancing and gathering in groups, organizations are now faced with getting back to a new business as usual.  Leadership must determine how they plan to re-open offices. Do certain teams need to come back before others? Does the office layout need to be adjusted? Are some employees going to prefer to continue to work remotely? How will you handle team communications when some are in the office and some are remote.

Even before the pandemic, more than ¾ of executives said they believed it was hard to connect with teammates according to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study. With the pandemic, remote working has become mandatory, change is happening quickly as priorities evolve, roles are shifting, and uncertainty about the future is impacting how teams interact and bond.

According to the HBR article, “Years of research and study have taught us that these ingredients — unclear missions, inconsistent social norms, low common identity, unclear roles, and unstable membership — are the recipe for team disasters. They result in inefficient, often unproductive, teams full of disconnected, sometimes disgruntled, members.”

A study conducted last month showed that there are warning signs about some of these issues surfacing. The pandemic has created a lack of clarity, connectedness, and motivation. If you are seeing any of these issues taking root at your organization, as a leader you need to address them now before they get worse. According to the HBR there are three stages to consider to get everyone back on track, triage, stabilization, and long-term care.

Triage

Just as it sounds, the first step is to understand what the most critical issues are in the organization. Most companies are no longer working on the same things or in the same way they were before the pandemic. Ask yourself if everyone has a clear understanding of what is expected of them and what they are focusing on. It’s also important to check-in on how people are doing. Do they feel connected? Are they overwhelmed with shifting work priorities? 

Stabilization

Once you believe you have identified all of the critical issues your teams are struggling with, it’s time to put a plan in place to address these issues. This may require the leadership team to assess their own communication of organizational initiatives. While change may be happening faster than usual in response to the unique situation we find ourselves in, being transparent with everyone and being clear on team priorities is important to create clarity. And if you have to change course a week or two later, again, just be clear and explain the reason for the pivot.

Long-Term Care

At this point it’s important to remember that you are just getting started on a new normal. The impact you’ve made in steps one and two were just the beginning. It’s important as a leadership team to start thinking about what your new normal is going to look like. Teams are going to have new dynamics in the post pandemic landscape and you’ll want to put together your plan of action now to ensure everyone is aware and aligned to the organization’s new policies. 

For more information on preparing teams for a return to the office and how your organizational culture can encourage and support employees during this transition, send us a note.